Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How we do "Family Wipes."

It has been a very busy week around here, and I am still recovering from the Daylight Savings Time switcheroo. On Sunday morning, I had to report to work at what my body was telling me was 4:30 AM, and my body is still not happy about that! My two teen-aged girls are gone all week to TeenPact and, oh my, am I already missing them terribly.

I have been planning for awhile to tell about our Family Wipes adventures, and now seems to be a good time. We began to use Family Wipes a couple of months ago. I had actually thought about doing it a long time ago, before I even read about it on the internet, but when I was looking for a way to slash our expenses, the time seemed right to implement it. Now I am the kind of gal, that, when I make up my mind about something, there is no turning back, even if I had to drag everyone kicking and screaming along the way. I also do not believe a family is a democracy. I am "she who must be obeyed," so there was no discussion. I just got everything set up and then made the announcement to my children.

I will never forget the literal wail that arose from Sweetness.
"Mooooom, noooooooooooooo!"
She then did not speak to me for the rest of the day. But, true to her name, she was back to her sweet self the next day, but she warned me, "No-one outside our family must know of this." I promised her and have almost kept that promise. I have told one equally crunchy and insane friend who got very excited about the idea, and I made her promise not to tell anyone else.

The verdict three months later is that, well, they still would rather use toilet paper but are used to the whole process now. I take care of the washing etc so for them using a piece of cloth and dropping it in the basket is not much different (or so I keep reminding them) from using paper and dropping it in the toilet. My husband has not yet brought himself to use them. I don't know what the hangup is, but I am being patient. I am sure he will come around eventually. As for me, even if all our financial challenges disappeared tomorrow, I think I would keep on using them because they feel nice.

So, on to the nuts and bolts. For the wipes, I went to a thrift store and bought a set of queen-sized flannel sheets. I wanted a brown print (for obvious reasons) but had to settle for a dark blue and white plaid. I spent one evening cutting the flat sheet up into squares that are about 6-8 inches. I did this very non-carefully, but they came out pretty even. I did not take the time to hem the edges but if one wanted to do that, one could. I just wanted to get the show on the road. I still have the fitted sheet in reserve for when we need more wipes. So basically I got about 250 wipes for about $2.50. I also purchased three net lingerie bags

with the toggle type drawstring closings. These go in a garbage can with a swinging lid. The wipes go in a cute little basket on the back of the toilet, and after use they are dropped in the can. The mesh bags were $4 apiece and the garbage cans were $8 apiece. The baskets were each a dollar. So my start-up costs were $44. You could save more if you found the supplies on sale or used. I wasn't that patient!

Here is a picture of what it looks like in our girls' bathroom (and you do not know the bravery it took to post a picture taken in our actual house).
Here is a closer look at the set-up.
When laundry time comes, I just remove the lid from the garbage can, cinch up the laundry bag, and throw the three bags in the laundry. I use my regular one tablespoon of homemade laundry soap, but I do wash these in hot water. I run them through the fast cycle on our front loader, which takes 30 minutes. I usually add any rags that need washing.

Then comes the most tedious aspect of the whole process, and that is hanging them out to dry. I use two racks to hold our week's supply for a family of 7-8. It probably takes me half an hour to get them all hung out. They dry very quickly and in a few hours are ready to stack in the baskets. I do believe that if I machine dried them, the smoothing out and stacking would take longer, and my wipes would also ravel badly and not last as long, so I will keep line drying them.
To answer the questions I KNOW you have:
-No, they don't stink. I went into this figuring they would and planned to wash at least twice a week. I went back to once a week because I realized it was simply not needed. One day something was stinking in the bathroom, so I washed the wipes, thinking that was it, but the stink remained. I was a brave one and actually brought the empty but not rinsed bucket up to my face and took a good whiff...NO ODOR. The stink was coming from something in the regular garbage can. I am sure that if I left them for weeks on end, they would develop an odor. I just don't plan to let that happen.

-Yes, they feel nice. Try it out, the chicken way. Take a piece of toilet paper and rub it on you face, as hard as you would if you were "wiping." Now rub a piece of flannel there. Feel the difference? Now imagine this same difference on the most tender part of your body. Aaaaaahhhhhhh.

-No, the cost of washing them does not compare to buying TP. I wash a load of rags almost every day, and I just add these in with that.

-Yes, it's worth the work. I estimate I save about $15/month by not having to buy toilet paper. Subtracting start-up costs, I will save $120 the first year and $180/year after that, more if the cost of TP goes up. If someone wanted to give you $180 once a year, would you take it? I sure would, and I have!


  1. Oh my, you are a brave soul! I just don't think I could go that far. But, I admire your frugality and smart thinking :)

  2. Wow. You are incredibly brave. Your daughter's comment cracked me up. I actually don't think the actual washing would bother me, but the hang drying would do me in.

  3. Need to put a half a capful of lysol concentrate (the stuff in the little hourglass shaped brown bottles) in with them along with the laundry soap. And then let them soak for about 30 min. Detergent doesn't kill e. coli or other baddies. And I guarantee your hot water isn't hot enough to either. And you're not putting them in the dryer. (which doesn't kill everything either btw)

    Read a study where they washed some clothes including underwear in a washer & then dried them in the dryer (and you're not using a dryer). They then swabbed the insides of the washer and cultured it. e. coli out the wazoo. Literally. And into the washer.

    YMMV. Think about it.

    (probably do the lysol bit with an underwear load as well, for the same reason)

  4. It's my E. Coli, which already lives in my gut, so I ain't ascared of it. Now if a cow that carries the virulent kind of E. Coli drops by and uses my bathroom, I will be a little more concerned.

  5. Thanks for sharing this. I had been thinking about it before I even read your first mention of this and I think I am going to go ahead and do it. Like your DH, my DH said he didn't think he wanted to do it, but he has his own bathroom so I could start it with the girls. I am going to start this as soon as I get some extra money that is coming to me.

  6. You are BRAVE! I wouldn't mind doing this if it were just me, but rubbing something on my bum that someone else has previously used on THEIR bum? I know it would be washed, but still, that's a hard one to wrap the brain around. :)

  7. For those worrying about the cleanliness of this, I am an RN and also have a degree in biochemistry. I don't say that to be snooty but to say I understand the science of bacteria. Just this last week, at my job, I have taken care of two men with life-threatening MRSA infections. MRSA is an antibiotic resistant infection most commonly found on the skin. One man has a hole in his leg you could fit an orange in. The other will likely loose a good part of his biceps muscle. MRSA has come about because of our germ-phobic society and the overuse of both oral antibiotics and the germ killing cleaners that are so common now. Germs are our friends when we let them live in balance as nature intended. Germs are everywhere; you cannot kill them all. I remember doing an experiment in college microbiology. We were given several petri dishes and could culture anything we wanted. I cultured both a spoon that had just come out of a commercial dishwasher and my fingers. The spoon grew out just as many bugs! But when we kill off the weaker bacteria over and over with antiseptic cleansers and unnecessary antibiotics, the strong ones take over. My lack of fear of everyday germs doesn't mean I want to wipe feces on my countertops, of course, and that brings me to the second half of the equation. Germs have to have the right environment to grow. Warm, moist heat is perfect for them. So, yes, your washing machine is going to have some in there. No matter what you add, some will survive. Some will transfer to other articles in the washing machine. But then, as the items dry, most bacteria will die, because they no longer are in their ideal environment. They are also not getting fed anything. The types of bacteria found in the gut do not commonly form spores to survive dry temperatures. They just die. A very few will survive again, and may get transferred to my countertop. Again, they will die, and even faster because no moisture can hang out on my dry hard countertop and they are not being fed. The final result is a countertop that has far fewer bacteria on it than what is normally found on my skin or in my mouth As it happens, my children are extremely healthy and rarely get stomach flu. We drink raw milk, which is teeming with bacteria. We eat fermented foods, also full of bugs. This keeps our guts full of the "good guys" so that the occasional bad guy gets run out of town. At work, yes, I use antibacterial hand cleanser all the time. I am surrounded by extraordinarily strong bugs that I don't want to bring home with me. At my home, I am at peace with our germs and we live in harmony.

  8. Good for you! I've been wanting to do bathroom wipes for a few months now, but just haven't gotten to it, although we use cloth instead of Kleenex. If you dry your wipes in the sun, the sun will kill that bacteria, too -- as I'm sure you know. Hanging up the wipes takes me the longest, too.

  9. Thanks for sharing the info on germs above. A friend of mine had me concerned the other day when she was telling me that she uses bleach on all towels and underwear to kill the e-coli. I tried to find information online but couldn't. Good thing I just happened on your site today. I've been using wash cloths as wipes and was looking to see what other people do. I may have to switch to flannel. I think it may be a better option.

  10. Wow, what a set-up! I'm the only female in my family, so I keep my basket of wipes in 1 of 3 bathrooms, and call them "pee-wipes" since that's all I use them for. My used ones go into an open basket at the top of a shelf behind my toilet, and there's no odor.

    My washing machine is 2 feet from my toilet, so tossing them into a hot wash is no extra effort. (I formerly used cloth diapers & wipes, then graduated to these for myself)

    My son helps me hang and/or fold them, and doesn't seem to mind. He even told me which ones were the prettiest: the black ones with pink flowers. They're still in excellent shape after 4 yrs. Highly recommended! Got mine from wallypop.com as I can't sew.... still totally worth it...I got irregulars the first time and later ordered premiums.

  11. We have been using family wipes for a little over a month now. We ordered ours from wallypop.net. I love them! The only thing we do differently is we use wet bags(for one bathroom)for the used wipes. They have a waterproof liner and you wash them with your wipes. I made mine for about 4 dollars and its super cute and before that i ordered one from wallypop. We alternate. once about half the wipes are used up we wash them and hang up the new bag. Also I love the info that the nurse put up. I hate how people automatically think using cloth is dirty. We use cloth diapers and baby wipes too and wouldn't have it any other way :)

  12. Wow!...after using cloth diapers and wipes for my youngest son, I am seriously considering this. I already have the wetbags and wipes that we used for him, so my start-up costs will be minimal. Only need a few more wipes...and I like the idea of using the flannel sheet. I will definitely have to talk to my DH about this, although I'm sure I already know what he will think.